Were Mr. Potato Head Parts Originally Toys Inside Battle Creek Cereal Boxes?
We need your help solving this mystery because the short answer is "we don't know", but we do know they were in cereal boxes in the beginning. Before Mr. Potato Head became a popular toy sold by Hasbro in the early 1950s, the popular body parts were used as prizes inside cereal boxes.
According to the education content website ThoughtCo., which did an article about the history of Mr. Potato Head, inventor George Lerner of New York came up with the revolutionary idea for a toy in 1949 that children could create and design all by themselves.
Some of the original parts were similar to what we know today such as eyes, a nose, mouths, as well as hats, and glasses. He used to come with a pipe too but apparently quit smoking at some point. <wink> But the original Mr. Potato Head did not come with a body to insert the parts into. The idea was that children would use a real potato, or other vegetables, to pierce through and create a unique, personified "food man" (or "food woman" when Mrs. Potato Head came along a few years later.
Anyways, Lerner's toy may have sounded good on paper, but the execution was less-than-stellar. Mainly, because of food rationing coming out of World War II, people felt that wasting food by turning it into a toy was not a bright idea. He shopped the idea around, it didn't go over well. So he sold his idea to a cereal company for $5,000 who then put the plastic body parts inside boxes as a prize.
But despite numerous searches and articles read, we have not been able to identify which cereal company it was sold to. If someone with better 'googling' skills can identify them we would love to know. Every article we found says "the cereal company" or "a cereal company".
Is it possible that it was cereals from either Kellogg's or Post in the Battle Creek area that had the toys inside? We have no way to confirm it but also no way to rule it out. He was based in New York, so perhaps there was a cereal company locally that bought those parts.
Whichever company it was, they didn't keep Mr. Potato Head for very long. In 1951, the toy changed hands again when the Rhode Island Hassenfeld Brothers company, later known as Hasbro, saw potential in the toys and purchased it from the unnamed cereal company for $7,000. Lerner also earned $500 in the deal along with 5% royalties for every set that was sold.
The first television ads came out in 1952, along with styrofoam to use as the body instead of real food. In 1953, the company decided Mr. Potato Head needed a family. That's when Mrs. Potato Head and two children, Yam and Spud came along. It turned out to be one of the earliest successes for the Hasbro company which later went on to become the third-largest toy company in the world.
But we still are wondering if there is a little Michigan connection here. Let us know if you have any clues about this in the Facebook comments under this article.
Check out this photo gallery below of cereals from Battle Creek in the past that are no longer being produced.